Orbi Vs. Velop: Looking for the Best WiFi Mesh Systems

Last update July 9, 2019

WiFi routers have become a staple of almost every home within the last decade, but they tend to encounter their share of problems, such as a limited range and dead zones. One of the best ways to relegate these issues to the past is by using a WiFi mesh system, which works by using multiple modules to create an extended WiFi network that covers a wide area with a stable signal. We will take an in-depth look at two of the best available, the Linksys Velop and Netgear Orbi, in this mesh WiFi systems review.

Orbi and Velop Designs

Orbi and Velop designs

One of the ways that a WiFi mesh system can distinguish itself from its competitors is by its design. This can affect multiple aspects of the system, including its available placement and maximum covered range. Let’s see how the Velop and Orbi systems stack up against each other.

Linksys Velop

Linksys Velop design

The Linksys Velop has a nice modern design that makes the whole system look more like pieces of art rather than a complex and powerful WiFi mesh system. This model consists of a router and one or more satellites, all made in the shape standing square pillars that each act as a node of the overall mesh system. Each pillar can be placed around the house, especially in areas where WiFi coverage is needed, and, in turn, will all work together to act as a unified WiFi network. This is especially good for a large home, where a standard WiFi router may have a weak to non-existent signal to the farthest parts of the house. Meanwhile, the Linksys Velop system simply needs a module in range of the area where WiFi is needed. If the existing mesh WiFi network isn’t large enough to cover the entire home, you can expand it simply by adding more modules.

Netgear Orbi

Netgear Orbi design

Although the Netgear Orbi works in a similar manner to the Velop, the design of this system is a bit different. The Orbi features a standing tower router that includes a powerful WiFi signal, and can work either by itself more like a standard WiFi router, or as the base station of an extended mesh network. The router is designed to work with either another standing base station, or with smaller wall plug satellites that combine together to create a wide ranging mesh network around your home. This helps add a great deal of flexibility and customization to the mesh network that is missing from most other mesh WiFi systems, and the wall plug satellites are a nice feature that helps save space. There is even an optional Orbi Voice Smart Speaker that can be added that allows you to control your network and attached devices with voice commands using the built-in Amazon Alexa voice control system, so you can have full control over everything from anywhere in the house, provided the speaker is in the range of your voice.

Setup for Velop and Orbi

Velop and Orbi setup

Any kind of WiFi system will need to be setup properly before you will have full network connectivity, and there is no exception with either the Velop or Orbi systems. Having said that, both systems are relatively easy to setup and get going, requiring no more than a few minutes once the hardware has been plugged in and turned on.

Linksys Velop

Linksys Velop setup

Linksys has typically been known for making very simple and intuitive setup wizards for their network devices, and this trend continues with the Linksys Velop. Recent advances have in fact made it even easier for many people as the setup process can be done through the Linksys app on your Android or iOS device. Setting up your mesh network can be done by powering on the primary node and then following the instructions and steps on the Linksys app. The app will configure your network with your input and will then allow you to connect more nodes throughout the setup process, if necessary.

You can even link each node to each other through a wired network connection by running a daisy chain of Ethernet cables through the primary and satellite nodes, which will automatically configure your mesh network to as a wired whole rather than through wireless. This allows for much better connection speeds for wireless devices, as they won’t have to share the same frequency spectrum with each satellite node. Just remember that each node will require its own power source, so they will need to be setup within reach of a power outlet.

Netgear Orbi

Netgear Orbi setup

Netgear hasn’t always been known for the easiness of setting up their routers, but the Orbi setup process should change their reputation in this area pretty quickly. Setting up the Orbi mesh system is about as easy as it can possibly get. Connecting your Internet modem to the yellow Ethernet port on the Orbi base station and then power-cycling the modem is all that is needed to get the setup process started. The Orbi should automatically detect the modem settings and configure itself to work with the modem. To personalize the settings of your wireless network, you can access the setup using a web browser from any PC or mobile device, so there is no need for a specific app for doing this.

Setting up one or more satellite nodes to your Orbi mesh WiFi network is just as easy as the initial setup process, if not more so. Simply connect the satellite to a power source, wait for the LED to go through a pattern of lights, which should indicate the status of the satellite. A solid blue light indicates that it automatically joined the Orbi network. If the light turns amber, then you should move the satellite closer to the base station, as it is too far away. Simply put, the setup process is quite easy, and requires very little in the way of in-depth configuration in order to get it up and running.

Performance of the Velop and Orbi Systems

Velop and Orbi systems performance

An extremely important aspect of any wireless network is going to be its performance. The variation in performance between different types of wireless networks can vary greatly based on a large number of factors, and this is certainly true with a mesh WiFi network. We will take a look at the performance characteristics of both the Velop and Orbi systems so you can have a good idea of what to expect from each system.

Linksys Velop

Linksys Velop

There are plenty of wireless routers on the market that advertise themselves as being dual-band, meaning that they are able to run at two different high-speed frequencies simultaneously. The Linksys Velop, however, is what is known as a tri-band system, offering support for three simultaneous bands, of 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz + 5GHz, and includes support for most of the 802.11 wireless standards. The network speeds offered by these bands are 867 + 867 + 400 Mbps, offering a theoretical throughput of over 2 Gbps. This theoretical throughput would place it above most other offerings in the speed department, should the maximum performance be reached.

However, with WiFi systems of any type, this is almost never the case. The theoretical throughput of a wireless network is almost never reached, due to a large number of factors, including the maximum speeds of connected devices, the distance between the router and device, and many other factors. There are simply too many different factors to list that can cause a drop in the performance of a wireless network, and all wireless systems, including the Velop system, are susceptible to any of them.

Having said all of that, the Velop does indeed offer quite high real-world performance that will often remain consistent, especially with multiple satellites set up around the area. Most users should expect to receive network speeds that are close to the theoretical limit, along with a highly stable connection that shouldn’t experience drops in performance or random disconnects. Of course, each person’s experience with the performance of a network will vary greatly depending on the factors affecting them, but with the Linksys Velop system, most problems that someone might run into can often be solved by adding another satellite to the system.

Under the hood, the Velop includes some pretty impressive specs, something that is rarely seen with any kind of wireless router. The base includes a 716 MHz quad-core processor along with 4 GB of flash memory, and 512 MB of RAM. Although the internal specs of a router are rarely ever considered in regard to its performance, the high specs of this model ensure that your router won’t ever get bogged down to the point of slowing down your overall network performance. Overall, most users should find the performance of their Linksys Velop system to be more than acceptable.

Netgear Orbi

Netgear Orbi

It is probably best to get this out of the way right off the bat: the Netgear Orbi is a monster when it comes to overall performance. This WiFi mesh system is similar to its aforementioned competitor by being a tri-band router that supports the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies that are common with high-performance routers. Having said that, the Orbi also includes another 5 GHz backchannel frequency that specifically handles its communications between the base and the satellites, ensuring high speeds throughout the network.

The Orbi supports the usual 802.11 standards that are supported by most other high-end routers, ensuring that wireless devices of all kinds will be able to connect to the network. The speeds of the network are similar to other mesh systems, with a maximum theoretical throughput of almost 3 Gbps. In a similar manner to most other systems, users will rarely approach this theoretical maximum. However, they will certainly obtain blazing fast speeds with any of their connected devices, without worry of overloading the network. This is especially important for those who often stream or share large files across the network.

Many reviews with benchmark tests have been made about this WiFi mesh network, and they are all nearly unanimous: the Orbi is one of the fastest overall performers out there. Although the range of the Orbi’s base system may be a bit smaller than that of the Linksys Velop system, it tends to maintain a stronger connection while delivering faster speeds from the same distances. The performance of the unit can be increased by adding another base or more satellites, as this will allow for more nodes to handle the network traffic.

The internal specs of the Orbi are similar to that of its Linksys counterpart, featuring a quad-core 710 MHz ARM processor, with 4 GB of flash storage and 512 MB of RAM. Needless to say, this router contains enough processing power to handle all of its necessary tasks efficiently and without having any negative impact on the performance of the network. If you are needing the fastest performing WiFi mesh network, it is doubtful that you will find another system that will outperform the Orbi.

Features of the Velop and Orbi

Velop and Orbi features

Despite their primary uses as wireless network systems, both of these models have plenty of features included in them that help increase their functionality and usefulness with your home network. Although some of the features are shared between the two systems, each one has their unique set that helps make it stand out from the rest.

Linksys Velop

Linksys Velop features

Linksys was sure to pack plenty of features into their Velop mesh WiFi system. One of the primary features, which has already been mentioned, is how easily expandable the system is. All it takes to expand the coverage of your Velop system is to add more equipment, including more nodes and other Velop equipment. Linksys even has wall plug-ins that can serve to act as another node on your home network.

Another great feature that Linksys included here is the ability to keep tabs on your home network from anywhere by using the Linksys app on your Android or iOS device. This means you can check the status of your network, change the security parameters, and even turn it off while you are away, giving you an extra layer of security to prevent unwanted intrusions. You can even set parental controls for your network to limit the websites that your children will have access to, which should help to give you peace of mind about your home network.

One other great feature added to the Linksys Velop system is the ability to have full control over all Wemo devices that are connected to your network. This gives you instant access to Wemo smart devices that are connected, including the ability to control lights, appliances, and home security. You are also able to connect your Amazon Alexa device and control all of these through voice commands through the network. This lets you completely automate most everything in your home, providing a level of convenience that is simply unprecedented.

Netgear Orbi

Netgear Orbi features

Netgear has also loaded their Orbi mesh WiFi system with features that give you a level of convenience and control that most other systems can’t match. For starters, the expandability of the mesh network is just as easy as it is with any other device, if not more so, Adding one or more nodes to the network is simply a two-step process, and the indicator lights on the devices can show you their status at a glance, without having to dig through settings to make sure that they are working.

Not to be outdone by the Velop system, Netgear has also included an Orbi app that gives you a large amount of control over your home network. With it, you can monitor every device connected to your network, set parental controls to restrict access to certain websites, pause access to the WiFi network whenever you deem it necessary, and even run a speed test to make sure that your network is operating at optimal performance. This is especially important for those who require their network to operate at blazing fast speeds at all times.

For those who like having full access not only to their home network, but also to other devices that are connected to the network, there are plenty of options for doing so. The Netgear Orbi supports voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, letting you access and control your network and connected devices using voice commands from anywhere in the house. With the devices that include speakers, you can even use the network to play your favorite music, which will sound great thanks to the Harmon Kardon technology which powers the Orbi Voice. In short, those who like voice control along with high-quality audio playback will certainly love this mesh WiFi system.

Velop and Orbi: Pros and Cons

Velop and Orbi: Pros and Cons

After reading all of the above information about both the Velop and Orbi mesh WiFi systems, your head is probably swimming with all of the information that we listed. For your convenience, here is an overview of the Pros and Cons of each system.

Linksys Velop

Pros:

  • Modern and compact design for easy placement of each node
  • Automated setup process
  • Easy expandability
  • Tri-band network with support for most WiFi standards
  • Stable network speeds
  • Linksys app for controlling your network
  • Amazon Alexa compatible
  • Works well with Wemo devices

Cons:

  • May require more nodes in order to cover a large house
  • Network speeds aren’t always the best
  • Adding additional nodes isn’t as straightforward as some other systems

Netgear Orbi

Pros:

  • Blazing fast network speeds
  • Easy setup process
  • Quick and easy expandability with additional nodes
  • Tri-band network with wide WiFi standards support
  • Netgear app allows for remote controlling of the network
  • Integrated support for Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Superb sound quality with Orbi Voice
  • Wide coverage with base

Cons:

  • Quite expensive
  • A little short on features compared to other systems
  • Light codes on nodes aren’t always clear

Linksys Velop or Netgear Orbi: Conclusion

Linksys Velop Vs. Netgear Orbi: Conclusion

These two mesh WiFi systems are quite evenly matched, which makes it difficult to come to a definitive conclusion about which one is better. The best way to explain this, though, is to show their biggest strengths when compared to each other. The Linksys Velop has a lot of things going for it, including ease of use, expandability options, and a whole slew of features that really make it stand out when compared to any other mesh WiFi system. The few drawbacks that it has really aren’t major problems that will affect the opinion of most users, and are not difficult to work around.

Meanwhile, the Netgear Orbi holds itself up quite well when compared to any other mesh WiFi system, including the Velop. Its main strength is its blazing fast performance which is simply unmatched by any other system. Its easy setup and control is another highlight that lets it stand out among the best mesh systems available. Although it doesn’t have quite the same number of features as the Velop, the ones it does have are quite suitable for most people. The only turnoff for many is its high price tag, but no one can say that it isn’t worth the cost if the blazing fast network speeds are a necessity for them.

In the end, the recommendation will come down to the needs and preferences of the individual user. Those who value the ease of use, flexibility, and included features of the Linksys Velop will find it to be a good choice. For those who value fast network speeds above all else, the Netgear Orbi is the clear winner. However, whichever of these systems you choose, you are certain to get a top-of-the-line mesh WiFi system that will give you wide network coverage with great network performance, along with great features that will take your home network to the next level.